Tariffs and trade with China has been a hot topic in the news recently. The tariffs impacting the steel and automobile industries have been widely covered but there are many additional industries that could potentially feel the effects of these tariffs, including our own.
“The power of the Internet of Things comes from the ability to collect a lot of data and convert that into useful information.” -Bertil Thorvaldson, ABB Robotics
While that is a very simple concept to understand, manufacturing Internet of Things (IoT) technology into most products can be a significant investment of time and money for companies. As a designer and manufacturer of medical, commercial, industrial, and military products, we are working with many customers on implementing IoT into their products to improve the customer experience and provide an additional revenue stream.
When it comes to manufacturing custom electronics, there are tons of companies out there that can do anything once. The true value of a manufacturing partner is a company that not only has the capability to manufacture your product fast to help you get to market quicker and cost effectively, but also consistently. Effectively accounting for Engineering Change Orders (ECOs) and product changes are factors that often get overlooked in manufacturers. Failing to find a supplier with stable speeds, costs, and a consistent process can cause major headaches down the line.
There are a lot of good things happening right now for many folks in the electronics manufacturing industry in the United States. The economy is going strong, unemployment rates are dropping, and there has been growth in the PCB industry over the past four months which hasn’t happened since May of 2016 according to the U.S. Purchasing Managers’ Index.
Over the past several years there have been several instances where battery suppliers that manufacture the highest technology batteries have run into financial difficulties (think A123, Boston Power) or change their business model and no longer want to supply small/medium volume applications (Panasonic). This has created several problems for OEMs as they have designed these cells and have passed all of the certification testing for UL, EMI, CE and UN DOT 38.3.
Even though the last financial crisis was over 8 years ago, most engineering departments at electronic OEMs have never fully staffed back to the levels that they were before the economic disaster. That means that there are many engineers doing two or more jobs, all while their senior management still insists on meeting tight timelines with limited budgets.
All companies judge themselves on simple things like revenue, expenses, and income. Most manufacturing companies measure even more metrics like capacity utilization, yield, inventory turns, and on-time delivery. All of which are very important to ensure that business is profitable.
Today, there are well over 3,000 companies that manufacturer printed circuit boards (PCB) in Asia (China, Taiwan, Japan, India, Korea, Thailand) with the supply capacity continuing to grow well ahead of the global demand.
The old saying “to the victor go the spoils” is now starting to apply in the battery supplier industry. Recently, Panasonic announced that it will no longer be supporting any new battery pack development projects that are not in the electric vehicle (EV) or solar storage space.
In 1999 there were over 1,200 active printed circuit board (PCB) manufacturing facilities in the U.S. Today, there are fewer than 130. What has transpired at a lot of these manufacturing companies are small service businesses that act as a liaison between a manufacturer and their customers. In many instances, this is a valuable relationship; the products are low in technology and the risk is very minimal. However, why is it that we require ISO certification for our manufacturing locations but not for service providers?